Special Responsibilities of Latter-day Saints
Latter-day Saints have special responsibilities with respect to the two Constitutions,
Latter-day Saints have special responsibilities arising out of the unique understanding made available to them concerning the true nature of the two Constitutions and how the Framers' inspired Constitution is to function. Those responsibilities rest heavily upon them because where much is given, much is expected.
They must not only familiarize themselves with the Framers' Constitution, but must oppose principles and actions contrary to it. Furthermore, they must be a leaven in promoting true principles and actions among others. This is in harmony with the following instruction by Joseph Smith.
There is one more thing I wish to speak about, and that is political economy. It is our duty to concentrate all our influence to make popular that which is sound and good, and unpopular that which is unsound. (History of the Church, Vol. V, p. 286)
A great danger Latter-day Saints must guard against is a tendency to disregard both the instructions of their prophets and the responsibility placed on them in the scriptures. That tendency has been notable from the beginning and is a constant refrain of the scriptures, presumably in the hope that we will learn from the continually repeated failures of so many in the past.
There seem to be two areas where Lucifer especially focuses his efforts in seeking to induce Latter-day Saints to neglect their duty. One is a self-satisfied feeling of having achieved success in the eyes of God because of one's status as a participant in His true church. The other is a desire to be accepted by the world and not be thought different or peculiar.
The repeated admonition to "watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation" (3 Nephi 18:18) seems particularly appropriate as we seek to labor diligently to preserve the Lord's inspired Constitution and our own and our children's freedom.
Individual civic responsibility.
It is important that we recognize that our responsibility to preserve freedom is an individual citizenship responsibility we have apart from our more direct Church duties. As to the latter we can expect specific counsel and instructions from Church leaders. But what [p. 79] we do in the developing struggle to preserve freedom is up to us to decide individually, seeking guidance in prayer and taking into account our own particular gifts and interests.
Be alert to Lucifer's influence.
As we contemplate our individual responsibility and what we might do to fulfill it, I believe it is helpful to anticipate that Lucifer will seek to immobilize us and keep us from opposing him. There are many instances besides the example of Joseph Smith's first vision in which the devil tried to prevent individuals from opposing his activities.
A comment by President Ezra Taft Benson has bearing on the question of waiting for specific Church instructions. In discussing the great effort of Lucifer to neutralize the priesthood and keep us from waking up, President Benson said:
The last neutralizer that the devil uses most effectively is simply this: "Don't do anything in the fight for freedom until the Church sets up its own specific program to save the Constitution." This brings us right back to the scripture about the slothful servants who will not do anything until they are "compelled in all things" (D&C 58:26). Maybe the Lord will never set up a specific Church program for the purpose of saving the Constitution. Perhaps if He set one up at this time it might split the Church asunder, and perhaps He does not want that to happen yet, for not all the wheat and tares are fully ripe (D&C 86:5-7)." (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 660-661.)
Beware of pride.
President David O. McKay tried valiantly to alert the Church to the dangers of statism. In that context he encouraged us to "study Constitutional principles" and to participate "in some type of organized self-education" concerning "the alarming conditions that are rapidly advancing about us." (The Elders of Israel and the Constitution, by Jerome Horowitz, p. 191) Many members of the Church heeded his counsel and became quite knowledgeable on these matters.
Unfortunately most members of the Church ignored President McKay's counsel and continued in their uninformed state. In some instances this has led to problems as those who heeded President McKay's counsel and became better informed were not as patient as they might have been with their less informed brothers and sisters. Sometimes they even seemed to let an element of pride enter their hearts to the extent of being critical of less informed Saints.
It seems to me that those who have put forth the effort to be informed on these matters must exercise great care to avoid pride and be loving and respectful and patient. [p. 80]
In addition to this being the proper gospel attitude, they should bear in mind that their less informed brothers and sisters are not likely to seek increased understanding if they are treated critically or are fed strong meat when they are only ready for milk.
Stay near to Lord.
Being aware of the way the Constitution is being torn apart and the various anti- freedom activities going on about us can be spiritually draining and even depressing. It is therefore highly important that in performing our civic responsibilities we remember that the Lord is the ultimate ruler and to stay close to him. We should put forth extra effort to do those things such as much scripture reading, especially in the Book of Mormon, and much prayer and other gospel oriented activities designed to increase the influence of his spirit in our lives.
Importance of freedom struggle.
The following are some statements from The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, which was published after President Benson became the Lord's prophet that seem to me to have particular bearing on the zeal with which we should perform our civic responsibilities:
As important as are all other principles of the gospel, it was the freedom issue that determined whether you received a body. To have been on the wrong side of the freedom issue during the War in Heaven meant eternal damnation. How then can Latter-day Saints expect to be on the wrong side in this life and escape the eternal consequences? The War in Heaven is raging on earth today. The issues are the same: Shall men be compelled to do what others claim is for their best welfare or will they heed the counsel of the prophets and preserve their freedom. (p. 658)
"You want to be loved by everyone," says the devil, "and this freedom battle is so controversial you might be accused of engaging in politics." Of course, the government has penetrated so much of our lives that one can hardly speak for freedom without being accused of being political. Some might even call the War in Heaven a political strugglecertainly it was controversial. Yet the valiant entered it with Michael (Revelation 12:7). (p. 659)
Being valiant on the Lord's side in the age old freedom against compulsion war involves more than words. It includes energetic action in gaining a sound understanding of the Lord's freedom protecting Constitution and how it differs from the Supreme Court's [p. 81] Constitution. It also includes continuous effort to restore and sustain the true Constitution and oppose programs and policies that undermine it. Being valiant on the Lord's side also includes diligent promotion of the type of religiously oriented society necessary for the Lord's Constitution to function successfully. [p. 82]